Proposals in the Port’s Sustainable Airport Master Plan (8) and Real Estate Strategic Plan (9) are likely to result in near-term destruction of dozens of acres of forested land in & near North SeaTac Park, while invasive weeds dominating much of Port-owned land in this area are rapidly damaging this critical infrastructure. See this site’s page: What Trees are at Risk for further details.
Funding, technical assistance, and other opportunities now available through The Evergreen Communities Act, (10) Washington State’s HEAL Act, (11) Washington’s Climate Commitment Act, which takes effect in 2023, (12) King County’s 3 Million Trees program (13), King County’s 30-Year Forest Plan, (14) and more, are designed specifically to protect highly-impacted and over-burdened communities with lower tree canopy such as ours within ten miles of SeaTac Airport and, specifically, to assist them in preserving and expanding their tree canopy as protection against climate impacts and pollution. These opportunities are likely to be wholly or partially lost if timely action is not taken.
These measures are necessary to:
Protect public health, as research demonstrates that trees reduce the impacts of airport-related pollution, that coniferous trees are especially effective for this purpose (2), that large-diameter trees are critical for climate stabilization (3, 14, 15), and that the City of SeaTac, where SeaTac Airport is located, has a significantly lower tree canopy than surrounding cities and the national average (5-7, 16);
Protect unique and irreplaceable resources integral to our identity in this Evergreen State and profoundly valuable for educational, recreational, job and career, and other economic and cultural activities;
Meet climate commitments made by multiple federal, state, county, and local governments that are entrusted with the solemn duty to protect the welfare of the people in their jurisdictions, including those living within ten miles of SeaTac Airport. This includes the King County - Cities Climate Commitment Collaboration Joint Letter of Commitment (17), which specifically calls for the reduction of sprawl and collaboration on the development and implementation of goals and strategies to improve urban tree canopy, forest health, and carbon sequestration;
Meet legal requirements under Presidential Executive Order 12898 (18), which promotes the principles of environmental justice in all Departmental programs, policies, and activities and of US Department of Transportation Order 5610.2 (19) that requires the FAA to analyze impacts – including cumulative effects - on low income and minority populations and to “determine if any low-income or minority populations experience a disproportionately high level of cumulative effects.”
Meet the Port of Seattle’s environmental justice commitments to people in the community where Port activities generate among the highest levels of noise and air pollution in the region with accompanying severe health impacts, and who, in high percentages, are members of demographic groups that have been historically disadvantaged and thus, who are both exposed to disproportionate levels of pollution and who are more vulnerable to the impacts of those exposures. These commitments include the following:
Commitment to Equity and the Sharing of Decision-Making Power with People Impacted by the Port’s Work The Port has committed in its Equity Statement and Vision (20) to work structurally to dismantle systemic barriers and ensure that historically oppressed communities, particularly communities of color, have access to the resources needed to thrive by sharing “information and decision-making power with the people who are impacted by our work.”
Commitment to Air Quality and Energy Efficiency In this Commitment (21), the Port states that it will aggressively and systematically work to make Port facilities as efficient as possible, “proactively working with regulatory agencies and community groups to reduce emissions from SEA Airport and Seaport operations.” It is assumed that reducing emissions includes reducing exposure to those emissions, a critically important value offered by our existing trees.
Commitment to Address the Urgency of the Climate Crisis and the Needs of Seattle Communities that are Disproportionately impacted by Air Pollution The Port’s Maritime Climate and Air Action Plan, (22) which includes this commitment, explicitly excludes emissions from SeaTac Airport. There is no moral basis to make this commitment to only those people who live in Seattle and experience harm from the Port’s maritime-related impacts - and not to all people who are harmed by Port operations.
This figure, from a 2020 report prepared by Public Health Seattle-King County for the Washington State Legislature, (2) shows three zones: Zone A, which is less than 1 mile from SeaTac International Airport; Zone B, 1-5 miles from the airport, and Zone C, 5-10 miles from the airport.
In this community, life expectancies are lower and rates of premature births, cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, and other negative health outcomes are higher. So are levels of the kinds of pollutants known to cause many of these illnesses.
Trees capture significant amounts of pollution generated by the airport and known to cause many of these health impacts, as well as large amounts of climate disrupting pollution. The City of SeaTac, where the airport is located, is estimated to have a tree canopy of 21%, which is significantly lower than that of neighboring cities or the national average (13-16)